Guidelines for getting Recommendation Letters

Some faculty in the Art Department have put together a set of guidelines for asking for recommendation letters.  We hope you find this helpful!

Guidelines for Recommendation Letters

As faculty we get the same questions asked about recommendation letters every semester, so this document is an attempt to answer those questions in advance and to help you prepare for what is expected through the recommendation process.

1. Who do I ask to write for me?

-you should really have received an A in the class(es); other candidates will be getting letters in classes where they received A’s.  If you do not have any A’s or for some other reason wish to get a recommendation from a professor from whom you received a B, then you should be well aware that this recommendation will not be as strong.

-if you are applying to graduate school, you should get letters primarily from the professors in the area in which you wish to concentrate.  (i.e. don’t ask an Ancient  specialist and a Medievalist to recommend you for a program where you stated that you will major in Contemporary).  If you need three recommendations, then of course one recommender might be outside the area.

-it is ideal to have taken more than one course with your recommender and/or to know them through another activity in school.  The better your professor knows you, the better they’ll be able to write for you.

-if you are taking a class with someone for the first time, they may be hesitant to recommend you if they have not seen your final work yet. Talk to the professor about this as you may be able to hand in a paper early for them to evaluate, but do not expect them to write for you in this instance.

2. When should I ask?

-IN ADVANCE!  If you know that you are applying to graduate school, even if you aren’t sure where yet, go line up your recommenders now.  In general, you should be asking at a bare minimum of two weeks in advance. Sometimes you find out about something last minute, but in most cases you should have time to ask several weeks prior to the due date.

-As soon as you are able, get recommendation forms and/or emails from the schools for e-recs out to your recommenders.

-If you are taking a course and you do very well, ask the professor at the end of the semester if they would write for you in the future – even if you don’t know if you apply to grad school – it’s a way of starting that relationship with them. ‘I’m thinking of applying for grad school next year in this area – can I come talk to you about it sometime?’

3. What does the professor need to write the rec?

-a draft of your statement for the project/grad school/internship

-a CV/resume

-very helpful if you want to remind the professor of past work, though most of us have your work on file  – some professors require you to give them the papers they graded with comments (see attached)

-pass on the information about the school/program to which you are applying so that we can tailor the letter

-necessary forms, addresses, etc. Note that if it is an e-recommendation, please give us the address where we can snail mail a rec in case we run into technical difficulties!

-self-addressed stamped envelopes if it has to go to you to be filed with the application (or some way of easily returning it to you quickly)

-a careful list of all deadlines

4. Do we like reminders?

-yes, polite reminders are helpful – we have a lot going on!

Below is a sample request form used by Professor Kilroy. Feel free to approach faculty already armed with these answers.  Note that each professor handles recommendations differently though and you should always check to see what they need for your letter.

request sheet for letters of Recommendation


Year in School:

Undergraduate Major(s) and Minor(s):

Graduate Specialization:

M.A. Thesis Title:

Contact Information in case I need to reach you:

I. Please list the courses that you took with me (course title, number, quarter/semester). Also, note the grade you received in each course.

1. 3. 5.
2. 4. 6.

II. If you wrote any papers for my courses, please provide information below about what you wrote, as well as the grade you received.

III. Please send me your updated curriculum vitae.

IV. Please send me a copy of your transcript(s).

V. Please list the languages that can read, speak, and/or write.

1. 2. 3.

V. What are you applying for? Please make a list of all the places to which you are sending an application. Include in your list the date by which you need the letter of recommendation and the manner in which I will need to submit it (hardcopy, e-letter, etc.). If you need hardcopies of letters, please make sure to give me pre-addressed and stamped envelopes. Also, if there are any forms that I need to fill out, indicate that there is an accompanying form here and then attach the form.

V. Briefly tell me about your future aspirations. In other words, explain to me why you are applying for those items listed above, and why they are of interest to you.

VI. Why do you feel that I am the “most qualified” person to be writing this letter on your behalf?

VII. What points would you like me to emphasize in my letter?

VIII. If there is any other information that will help me in writing a letter, please include it


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